McBride, Joseph L.
Farm and ranch experiences as a child growing up in Socorro County.
Story: A Very Good Day at the Roadside Stand
Joseph McBride: I don't know if I ever told you the story about the one summer, and I don't know what year it was, it was back in '49 or '50. He [my uncle] was goin' into Socorro. That's when old [Highway] 85 used to run through. It wasn't I-25 then. In the mornings I'd set it on the east side, and in the evenings after lunch I'd set it on the west side. Well, I had it on the west side, and we had just unloaded, and he took off for Socorro.
I was sittin' there, and the first big old limousine that I had ever seen, this white limousine come drivin' up. Had Texas license plates on it. That's all I know. And the driver come out. He walked over to me, and he says, "How much for your stuff?" Well, I had green beans; they grew green beans, corn, then my grandfather, he had a great big apricot tree right in the middle of his field. And it was back behind where the irrigation ditch was he had a plum tree. So I had plums.
And the guy come up to me, and he asked me, "How much is your stuff?" I says, "In what way? What do you want?" And he says, "We want it all." Well I'd never sold it that way. It was always the individual. And so, the window, the back window rolled down about that much. And he and, whoever it was, and to this day I have no idea who was back there. I could not tell you. And he come back to me, and he says, "Well, everything you got there, how about fifteen hundred dollars?" I'd never had fifteen hundred dollars. I've never seen two hundred dollars in my life. And I says, "Yeah." So, I was wonderin' where he was gonna put all this stuff. You know, them watermelons was that big around and that long. And I had about, probably ten, twelve of 'em. And cantaloupes were about that big. I mean, my uncle had blue ribbons for them all.
And, he opened that trunk and it looked like a big old, I mean, it looked like a pickup bed back there, to me. And we got it all loaded in there and still had room, and he had luggage back there. Got it all back there and still had room he could have put more. So, he gave me the fifteen hundred. I just stuck it in my pocket.
And the driver walked around and started in, and he looked down and was talkin' to him. The window hadn't been rolled up, and all of a sudden I seen two fingers stickin' out with this money. Well, I had no idea what was goin' on. You know, they'd already paid me. And the driver says, "Go ahead and take it, son. It's a tip." Well, I'd never heard of a tip before. I says, "I don't really want to take that." He says, "Son, go ahead and take it." So I took it and just stuck it in my pocket. I had no idea what it was. So he got in, and as they was drivin' off my uncle was comin' back. And he says, "Who was that?"
Well, I had a wheelbarrow. We loaded the wheelbarrow up and was goin' back to the fields to get some more stuff to bring out there. And I sold some more stuff and went back to the house and was getting' ready to eat, and my uncle asked me, "What did we make today?" I says, "You know, I don't know." And I was pulling money out of my pocket, you know, and it dawned on me that I had the money in here. So he always counted it, you know, and everything. And he looked at that and he went, "Oh, very good." I had made, that day, from that morning until that afternoon, probably eighteen hundred dollars. I hadn't had eighteen hundred dollars, and him and I split it.
And then it dawned on me that I had this money in this pocket. I had no idea what was in this pocket. And I says, "This is a tip." He opened it up and it was, all those ones, about a thousand dollars. All one hundred dollar bills. My uncle come out there and said, "This is your money, your half." 'Cause I helped him irrigate, pick cotton, shuck corn. He's a' countin' it out, and he says, "This is your share." It was over six thousand dollars what my share was.
Carol Pittman: You did all right that summer.
Tape 1, Side A
The consultant was born in Santa Fe, but was raised in Socorro by his great uncle "Nate" McBride, who was a farmer. He attended school in San Acacia and Alamillo. He attended sixth grade in San Acacia. In May 1955 he moved to California, remaining there until 1992, a span of thirty-seven years.
He recalls that he never learned how to milk a cow. His uncle Nate raised cotton, watermelon, and corn. Crops were irrigated by river water. He remembers that his great-grandparents and grandparents had a homestead in Dusty. They were ranchers.
His mother was born in 1921. Her maiden name was Sorrel. Uncle Nate was a McBride. Nate McBride's farm is not the Henderson place. The structures from the old McBride place are now gone. The town Post Office is still standing, with some of the boxes still bearing the McBride and Sorrel names.
The consultant recalls that his grandfather moved to the San Acacia and O'Neill area in the early 1930s. After working at ranching, he switched to the Forest service, where he worked with the lookout towers. He is proud of the fact that his grandfather built a lot of "stuff" with the W.P.A [Work Progress Administration].
As a child the consultant picked cotton, shucked corn at the farm, as well as sold produce around Socorro. He recalls that he once sold $1500 worth of produce to one customer from his stand on the side of the road. That particular summer, he was able to earn $6000. He remembers that he would get out of bed between 4 and 4:30 a.m. and work straight through until 5 or 5:30 p.m. He went to bed early, and was up again the next day. In 1955, the FDA [Federal Drug Administration] was created, and private sales of meat, eggs, and poultry were banned. He recalls that the only livestock was a Jersey cow that they milked. Her name was Betsy. One day, Betsy was found shot to death. Uncle Nate suspected who had done it, but could not prove it, and finally dropped the matter. The family no longer owns the land. It was taken for the construction of I-25.
The consultant's uncle Robert competed in rodeo, riding both Bareback and Saddle bronc. He worked for different ranches in the area, including the Spear ranch. Years later, Robert bought an old stagecoach from the Spears, restored it, and donated it to the San Acacia Museum, where it is now. Robert was also on the "last trail drive" from Arizona to Magdalena.
The consultant's father was born in Sweetwater, and was also raised by Uncle Nate.
Tape 1, Side B
The consultant continues the interview with a discussion about his grandfather, who rode the rails. After he had been away for six months, he returned only to learn of the death of his wife and the birth of his son, the consultant's father. Uncle Nate never forgave his grandfather for that. Uncle Nate and the consultant's father were very close. The consultant recalls that he knows of only of an Aunt Betty and Uncle Robert (both Sorrels) who still live in New Mexico. There are lots of cousins in the state, though. The consultant discusses the various locations of his siblings and other relatives. When the consultant returned to New Mexico from California in 1992, he inquired of his uncle about going back to ranching or farming. His uncle advised him against it and suggested that he "stick" to what he knows.
The consultant recalls that he stayed in Socorro with his Uncle Robert in 1963, and remembers a humorous incident. They had made homemade root beer and had stored it on the porch overnight. The next morning, bottle caps were found popped and there was root beer all over the porch.
He remembers that the family tried hired help, never hired anyone again after they were caught cheating. His uncle paid them off and fired them on the spot.
Cotton grown on the farm was taken to the cotton gin located between Socorro and San Acacia. The consultant used a tractor to pull a trailer load of cotton and would drive it up under an eave. A pipe would then suck the cotton out of the trailer.
There were two types of corn grown. One was for human consumption and the other was for cattle feed. He recalls that his grandfather grew only corn for cattle feed. All of the corncobs were saved, dried and used as fuel in the woodstove.
The consultant remembers that Uncle Nate only cooked breakfast. His sister Flo owned the farm and cooked lunch and dinner. There were separate houses on the property for Flo and her family, and another house for Uncle Nate and his family.
Houses were built on stilts due to the flooding of the Rio Grande Valley. During one flood in the 1940s, the consultant's mother had to evacuate the whole family out to the highway for safety. The area has since been sold and re-sold and some of the land is under development. The only farm still operating is an alfalfa farm run by Corgy's.
He remembers that snowfall would get up to three or four feet, making him living proof of the tales about walking two to three miles to school in the snow. Later, when the family lived in San Acacia, it was only 1/10 of a mile to school. He recalls that in those days, you either attended school or went to work. There really was little choice.